This is the continuation of an interview with Richard Glenn on February 23, 2016 by Karen Brewster and Craig George at his home in Barrow, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Richard talks about the effect of wind and current on ice conditions, the importance of being alert to the environment and testing the ice in order to be safe on the ice. He also discusses adapting to climate change, the applicability of traditional knowledge, different types of ice, and the effect of ice movement on whaling camps.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Sea Ice in Northern Alaska
Date of Interview: Feb 23, 2016
Narrator(s): Richard Glenn
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Craig George
Transcriber: Sue Beck
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Change in the timing of freeze-up
Effect of boat size for summer seal hunting
Traveling by boat from Barrow to Prudhoe Bay and dealing with moving ice
Effect of wind on formation of ice
Effect of wind on ice conditions
Importance of being alert to the environment for being safe on the ice
Generational transfer of knowledge
Adapting to climate change
Observing and evaluating ice conditions, and variation in the ice throughout the season
Assessing and testing the ice before you go out
Iñupiaq sea ice terminology
Confidence and risk taking
Future of whaling
Effect of different types of ice movement on whaling camps, and importance of watching all directions
Grinding of the ice
Discussion about video of whale being pulled up and big chunks of ice floating by
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KAREN BREWSTER: We’re back and I forgot to say that Craig George is here with us, too. Was ask -- talking about freeze-up. Say that again, Craig.
CRAIG GEORGE: Well, I was gonna ask Richard about his observations on when fall freeze-up occurs over the last thirty, forty years. ‘Cause it seems like that’s changed.
RICHARD GLENN: It’s definitely changed, right. And we’ve -- we see it year-to-year and we -- and we -- and if you’re keeping track of it, if you write it on a calendar, you can see it change with time.
So, it’s -- I mean, that’s a guaranteed easy-to-say true fact that freeze-up is happening later, and it seems to be happening later every year.
And to a lesser degree, break-up, brown-up, break-up, thaw is happening earlier. So we’re shortening our freezing season, and it’s happening faster or to a greater extent on the fall-time side.
CRAIG GEORGE: But it is true that the complexity of this is lost on most people, like you said earlier.
And it -- I was really fascinated listening to you, because it is so complicated and it’s very difficult to make general -- general statements about ice conditions.
One -- one thing I was gonna ask about, Richard, was the change -- like when you’re describing going out after break-up, seal hunting, I was starting to cringe thinking about that -- constantly, the probability of gettin’ pinched off. RICHARD GLENN: Yeah.
CRAIG GEORGE: And then even in summer that was always the big cat-and- mouse game. It could happen any time of the year.
RICHARD GLENN: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: But boat sizes changed so much.
You were out in 18-foot Lunds. I was waiting for you to talk about this, but how has that changed? Or has it changed anything?
RICHARD GLENN: It has to change the way you -- yeah, it has to change the way you respond to risk. The risk of -- of not -- of getting pinched off.
And pinched off is -- is -- is a general term. But there’s so many different ways it can happen.
So in typical summertime broken ice, retreating ice situation, there’s bands of ice and bands of open water, and bands of ice.
And we’ll refer to them with each other, because some of those bands of open water and ice edge have more animals in them than others.
And sometimes you gotta go through a few to get to the place where they’re all at. And that means every time you cross moving, broken ice, you’re crossing an area that might block you from getting home.
And -- and so you stay in touch with each other. You -- you hope that you’re learning where the animals are, and you hope that there’s always a safe way back home.
And in the days when we used Lund boats, sometimes we took them out pretty far in -- in broken-ice conditions and even in that kind of -- the old -- the old days. Here we go again.
When there’s a beach, blue water, and the pack edge. And the blue water’s big enough -- it could be twenty miles or it could be five miles, but it could be rough in a windy condition.
Anyway, the way you treat all of those different forms of risk with a Lund boat is different than the way you treat it with a larger one.
And -- and yet the Lund boat offered some -- some tools that these big boats don’t have. You could come ramp up onto the ice. You could pull across, you get across a hundred yards of -- of newly -- whatever’s blocking you from the shore by tugging your boat.
And you had three or four guys pushing a Lund boat across the ice.
KAREN BREWSTER: Or portage it basically, yeah?
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. And you can’t do that with these, you know, the big -- the big outboards.
And so I think, you know, appropriately, maybe, in that first part of summer during the broken-ice conditions, that’s Lund weather. Right? You belong out there in a Lund boat.
And it’s -- and if you’re out there in a boat that’s any bigger, that you can’t muscle around by human power, then you better have enough in your boat to -- to move as far to the west as you need to and come ashore.
You need days of fuel and days of food and heat or you need to be able -- you’re gonna be in this risk of riding out a pinched environment and you can’t pull yourself up on the ice.
And so, yeah. So there’s a new world of risk for big boats if they try to jump into the summer hunting game too early.
KAREN BREWSTER: Also I was thinking a Lund might be more maneuverable. You could get through a smaller passage and opening than in a bigger boat.
RICHARD GLENN: I think -- I’ve seen -- Well, you know, you can do a little bit of muscling with the ice with a bigger boat, too.
You -- and so I’m not sure that’s a totally true statement. You can get pretty nimble, too, with some of these big boats. KAREN BREWSTER: Can you?
RICHARD GLENN: I want to tell you. So, one time we went to -- I took -- I’ve taken several trips to Prudhoe Bay in the summer from here.
And while there’s still enough ice cover on the north side of the Beaufort (Sea) to shelter the water from bad winds.
So you’re taking some risk. The first risk exists right there at -- near Tangent Point. There’s always a hang-up of ice right there.
When it let’s go there, then you think, well, maybe it’s open to Smith Bay. But it doesn’t mean it’s open past Lonely, for example.
So you wait enough -- 'til enough time and then you got a hallway of open water. So, we waited. But we wanted this blessing of calmish water.
And we made it to Cape Halkett and we’re crossing Harrison Bay and we’re in fog, and we’re running into bands of ice. And for a while you kind of do this sashay.
And I’m in, like, a 23-foot -- I’m in a 23-foot or a 25-foot boat. And we do this kind of weaving through this kind of a -- almost like a you see a boxer handling a punching bag.
You move through broken-ice conditions and you’re -- as long as the ice has a certain degree of looseness, you can sashay through there at pretty fast speed and feel pretty proud of yourself.
So we did this through a few bands, asking -- And then in my mind I’m saying, if worse comes to worse I can always turn right and head for either shallow water of Harrison Bay or the bluffs of Cape Halkett or whatever, ‘cause there’s a little armpit of mainland back there that’s less vulnerable to all of this.
These were fingers of -- or bands of ice that were almost oriented perpendicular to the coast, crossing Harrison Bay.
Anyway, we crossed them. Then I got to one where I couldn’t sashay anymore, and this was -- this was the kind of thing that nightmares are made of for boaters, right.
The ice is closing like this, and all you’ve got is that one spot. It looks solid white to your right and to your left and everything in front of you is open ocean.
And I got to that place and it had already met. And I -- this is me, Savik, Roy.
I did this twice. I did this crossing Harrison Bay. I did this at Point Tangent. I crossed over. I rode the keel of the boat up on the ice and skidded back down, and now I’m free.
And that introduces its own risk. And, yeah, so you can only do that so -- so that as much as you climb up you gotta have that much room coming down, and you’re going to break your engine if you do it wrong.
So -- so that takes -- that takes a little bit of cajones. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.
RICHARD GLENN: And then -- oh! So -- so check this out. So, I did it once with Savik’s boat. We did fine.
I did it once and that’s at Point Tangent. We were going to Smith Bay.
I did it once in Harrison Bay. We got up and we got down, and I turned my engine to the side as we were going down and we hung.
We hung on the outboard with the nose of the boat already swimming, and I got -- I got two or three guys out behind me and made sure that our engine is turned all one way, so it’s kind of flat edged and not propeller down.
And I got a big, long -- I got a big -- I got a lever basically.
And they pushed from the corners of the boat and I was behind on the ice, and we levered the back end of that boat up and into the water, and they jumped in and they slid away.
And they left me standing in Harrison Bay. And for a second I wondered how vulnerable I was while they made their big, slow circle to come and pick me up again. We continued on, you know.
That was a time we gambled and we didn’t lose much, but that was a risk.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you were talking about how the, you know, the ice changing through the season, and you guys just had this big blizzard up here two weeks -- a week ago?
RICHARD GLENN: Mm-hm. So, what that tells -- that whole story about constant, strong northeast wind in -- in -- in a winter setting is a slush factory, right.
You’re just making slush ice and it’s moving downwind. It’s accumulating somewhere, and we’re going to see it again somehow in some new form when it all comes back again.
And it’s -- there’s a lot to learn in watching. Craig and I were exchanging comments about pictures of it.
Because there’s a lot to learn just watching the way slush forms in windy conditions.
KAREN BREWSTER: I would think slush wouldn’t form in windy conditions, that you’d need calm water.
RICHARD GLENN: No. It’s always there. It’s a question of whether you’re giving it time to accumulate to the surface and congeal.
It’s a -- it’s a -- there must be cool biology and thermohaline circulation that happens in those wind-driven leads in cold conditions. It’d be a cool thing to study.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So that blizzard was a northeast wind? RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: East.
KAREN BREWSTER: East wind? So did it push a lead open, or what’s -- ? RICHARD GLENN: Big time. KAREN BREWSTER: Did it?
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. You could -- the satellites are showing you that you can’t see landfast ice hardly at all west of Wainwright or west of Point Franklin all the way to Point Lay.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. And so now it’s end of February --?
RICHARD GLENN: Mm-hm. No prediction. No prediction.
It’s gotta slam shut sometime. There’s gonna be one or two west storms, and what’s that gonna do to the edge? Will that give Wainwright guys an ice edge? You know, that’s the question.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and you said here it’s dominantly east/northeast winds, but there was one year a few years ago where that whole spring it was west winds. And the lead, I don’t know if it even opened at all.
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah, so -- Well, so the spring wind conditions and the midwinter wind conditions, to me it’s almost two different animals.
So we’ll be making ice, slush ice or whatever, and opening a polyna basically all winter.
But if in the -- if beginning at the end of March or whatever, we suddenly get a bunch of west storms, you won’t recognize what you see right now, right?
It’s -- you’ll have new scars. It’s a different -- you’re a different person than the person I saw, you know, a few weeks ago.
So the ice is -- you know, it has a life like that. It’s a living, breathing thing.
KAREN BREWSTER: But that one year when it was just west, west, west wind? RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: That seems like -- RICHARD GLENN: In spring.
KAREN BREWSTER: In spring during whaling, that seemed unusual. Not -- was -- You didn’t think it was unusual?
RICHARD GLENN: So -- Well, it happens. There so much variety, everything’s unusual.
You just gotta learn to ride out what you’re in. I mean, maybe it is. I don’t know.
In the scale of twenty years of whaling, it might be an unusual event. In the scale of two hundred years of whaling, is it? I don’t know. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.
RICHARD GLENN: So, I try not to think of usual and unusual. I just try to learn what it is when it is.
Maybe that’s lazy. Or that’s -- or cheating.
KAREN BREWSTER: No. No, it’s living in the present, maybe. But -- you had mentioned Ben Ahmaogak from Wainwright and his talking about things to know about surviving on thin ice.
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. I wish I knew a tenth of what he knew about stuff.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember any of the things he told you?
RICHARD GLENN: Well, of course it means he’s alert to his environment. He knows -- he knows that if he’s on the ocean side of a pressure ridge system on a refrozen lead or whatever, he knows enough to know that this open -- refrozen lead, if he’s ready to use it as a highway he thinks the current is in his favor, right?
And he knows how fast he can or can’t go or how -- or how safe it is for anyone to be behind him. Because sometimes just by moving through thin ice you rip it up and you’ve -- you've ruined your trail basically for the guy behind you.
So he knows all that, right? And he knows that by touch, smell, sight, and everything else.
And what a gift, you know. What a gift to hang around with someone like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RICHARD GLENN: I wish -- I wish I did, but I didn’t. So I know it only third hand.
CRAIG GEORGE: Richard Nelson did.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, I was gonna say, the old -- talking about old days, the old old days, where the seal hunters, they would drag their kayaks out, right? RICHARD GLENN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Those guys knew that stuff.
RICHARD GLENN: Well, they say -- I mean, that Ben learned from my grandfather, so this comes full circle.
My grandfather was Ben’s oldest brother, and as a boy he followed Walton out. Sneaking. He’d hide behind the pressure ridges until he got so far that Walton would have to bring him along.
And so the cool thing about this education is it’s full circle inside the family.
And Walton was a grown man when Ben was a young boy. Ben was a grown man when I was a young boy. Ben and Savik are the same age.
And so this is a fountain of firsthand sea ice experience. But it’s gotta get -- you gotta -- it’s use it or lose it.
You cannot -- cannot bank on anything. You can’t use films that talk about the old days. It has to be what -- Ben followed Walton, right? Roy followed Walton.
I followed Roy, you know, and my kids are following me, that type of thing.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I was gonna say, are there young -- the young kids, are they out there following?
RICHARD GLENN: I followed -- young Ben followed me. Roy’s son followed me when Roy -- Roy wasn’t around, you know.
So we’ve -- we've spun this thing full circle several times in -- and I don’t consider myself to be that long-lived in sea ice experience, and I’ve always --
And I’ve already been around four generations of it, right? Which is cool.
It must be cool for you, too, Craig. You’ve seen a similar breadth or even longer.
KAREN BREWSTER: But I find it interesting when you say, you know, whether what you’ve learned, the stories -- What you learned from your grandfather, are you still applying that, or you’ve had to learn new things along the way?
RICHARD GLENN: It’s the -- I think I keep coming back to -- it’s -- I learned the tools, right? So there’s no -- there’s not -- there’s new -- we got GPS, right?
We got bigger boats or we’ve got satellite imagery, but we know the tools, right? The tools. And the tools are pretty basic.
CRAIG GEORGE: And it’s like saying once you learn how to rock climb, you can climb the Tetons or you can climb the Alaska Range. You know, rock is -- but -- and that’s a good -- actually a good point.
Gray ice is thin ice whether it’s in October or February, but I like what you said, that you might just have to turn up the intensity switch a little bit and check your trail more often.
That’s -- that’s interesting, but the same basic tools are there. You just can’t, for instance, go out in October inland and assume everything’s safely frozen now.
KAREN BREWSTER: But I like your idea that, you know, no matter what you know, a certain color -- gray is thin and darker is thicker.
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. And, you know, you’re not a slave to the calendar.
Like, on October tenth it’s always been this way, right? We -- just throw that idea away.
We should’ve thrown that idea away even if we didn’t know anything about a changing climate. It’s never the same. And, yeah, it can get you in trouble.
And I -- I don’t know anyone in -- in my world of people who are active that -- that are on the calendar more than in the element. And so that’s something that --
But the rest of the world doesn’t know that. They think we live in a changing environment and grandfather’s rules don’t apply to grandson and all that stuff, you know. There’s a myth there.
There’s a -- there’s a -- there's a drama there that people want to invoke. That if you’re not in it, I mean, you don’t understand.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, that’s one of the things I’m -- you know -- Your thing about, well, the color tells you something. Those are the things that I find interesting.
What are you looking for? What are those signs that are telling you, because those things are still the rules.
RICHARD GLENN: So to me -- So to me, in addition to immediate observation and evaluation, you have to have a running inventory of your head of what got it there.
For example, gray ice is thin ice is good, but if it’s freezing, it -- If it's in a milder environment rather than a colder environment, that’s gonna change how fast it’s growing, how strong it is.
So not only do you need to evaluate what you’re looking at, you need to evaluate the conditions that got it there.
KAREN BREWSTER: That’s interesting. I never thought about that ice freezes --like in October when it’s freezing and it’s warmer, it’s slower.
RICHARD GLENN: It’s mushy. It’s not as strong. It’s got more wobble in it. And if you put the same thickness of ice in minus forty in February rather than in minus ten in November or whatever, of course, it’s gonna to be different.
Think of it as a crystal in equilibrium with its melt, and you -- it -- It gets easy that way, It’s like --
And -- and maybe I -- I -- I know that more than I should, because I’ve had to core through ice at every temperature by hand. Before they invented drills for students to use.
But it is a totally different -- it’s like, yeah, it's -- it’s a totally different medium.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that’s interesting. And knowing -- Well, that’s part of the knowing the different seasons and what’s happening.
RICHARD GLENN: And not just the season, but the last ten days of conditions or the entire --
Like the math people say, the set of all x such that? The entire set of conditions that brought that ice floe or ice environment to you to look at right now.
If to the best of your ability you gotta know its whole history from -- is this -- is this thick ice that floated in and just touched us and glued together? Or was it born in place? Or was it ridged in place?
Has it been grinding by without leaving a trace of itself for a week? Is there a shear ridge invisible to everyone but the ice itself, you know.
There’s -- all of this stuff is orders of magnitude more important to the person who’s gotta cross it, walk on it, live on it.
And so I’m almost a ice gossip. I want to learn everything about this stuff, right? Where it was, who it slept with, where are the dead people in its family or whatever.
And -- and the more you can -- the more you can do that, the more -- I think the less risk you introduce in trying to do something on it.
KAREN BREWSTER: But how do you know that stuff? How would you know if you’re not -- I mean, if you’re camped out there during spring whaling, you’re there watching it and experiencing it --- RICHARD GLENN: Yeah, you got that.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- but before you go out?
RICHARD GLENN: You’ve got hints. So by cutting a trail through it you learn a little bit about how it was and who -- what got it there.
If you’re lucky or if you’re avid enough, you’ve been out there several times as the season progressed. Seal-hunting trails become whale-hunting trails, et cetera, et cetera.
And so you got avenues to find out the history of this stuff. And then everything you break with your pick --
You’re breaking with your pick, so you’re looking at everything in cross-section. You’re looking at that popcorn junk ice that your pick hates to swing on or the mud-rich stuff that was born when the slush was dragging the bottom.
Or this kind of columnar basalt-looking ice that grew all at once and just stayed that way from birth to death.
Just a flat tabular -- bang, hit it with a pick and it all breaks like that.
I mean, it must be the way chain gang guys felt when they were making roads in the deep South. You start to become a rock connoisseur.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Those different kinds that you just talked about, they have different Iñupiaq terms for them?
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. Yeah, there’s Iñupiaq terms for everything.
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you tell me some of them?
RICHARD GLENN: I’ll tell you all of them from start to finish if you follow me out there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I would love to. That’s the way to do this, right?
RICHARD GLENN: Yep. And to be fair, in English there’s different terms for every one of them, too, but it just takes you a few more words to get there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, that popcorn stuff. What’s that?
RICHARD GLENN: Well, depending on the popcorn you’re talking about -- I’m talking about tamalaq or muġałłiq. KAREN BREWSTER: Muġałłiq, I’ve heard. But the other one? RICHARD GLENN: Tamalaq is --
KAREN BREWSTER: I’ve never heard that one before.
RICHARD GLENN: Broken -- broken up junk ice that has yet to -- it’s not congealed.
KAREN BREWSTER: What about that basalt column?
RICHARD GLENN: Sikuliaġruaq. Ice that just grew in place, and it’s young ice but it’s not full-thickness ice.
It’s -- it's nearly so. It’s young, strong ice.
KAREN BREWSTER: Cool.
CRAIG GEORGE: You know, one thing you haven’t discussed is confidence and bravery. That that plays such a huge role.
That’s where I never quite got. I mean, you’re right, as you get through the season you get more comfortable in some ways. You definitely do. But it takes -- I’m always amazed.
Every year people go out, and it takes a tremendous amount of confidence and bravery to go out, especially beyond the grounded ice ridges, like last spring.
RICHARD GLENN: True. I’ve had the feeling, too, of -- Am I too brave? I mean, too confident?
Or am -- and I’ve had the other feeling, which is --Those guys are going out and I am staying. Am I not brave enough?
You know, I’ve been on both sides of the equation of --
CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, and you did talk about it. Yeah, you’re right.
RICHARD GLENN: But you’re right, and I admire it, too. And I admire it when the guys go and they -- they’re successful.
And I try to ask myself, what’s my learning lesson here? What -- what -- You know, when could I have moved that I didn’t? Or what’s the next piece of information?
And nine times out of ten, it’s the current. The current allows you -- a good current allows you to do a bunch of things that you would never do in a bad current.
KAREN BREWSTER: And what do you mean by a good current? RICHARD GLENN: East wind. East current, I mean. KAREN BREWSTER: East current. RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. Piruġaġniq.
CRAIG GEORGE: I guess what I was saying is there’s a certain amount of risk you have to accept if you want to go whaling. RICHARD GLENN: Mmm.
KAREN BREWSTER: And where -- but, yeah. There is a certain amount of risk you happen to -- you have to accept.
So for you, do you have that line? Or what’s -- where do you draw that line for risk? No.
RICHARD GLENN: No, no -- it’s like -- it’s -- you don’t want to risk -- you don’t want to risk the lives of your immediate crewmembers immediately, right? But whaling itself is inherently a risky business.
So you’re always going on degrees of risk and degrees of getting close to your goal. And hopefully you haven’t tolerated too much risk and you’re close enough to your goal.
Yeah, it’s -- it's kinda like the thing we were talking about earlier, where two things kind of meet, right?
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, and -- and Craig used the word confidence. That’s part of it. Is your confidence in yourself and understanding the conditions and -- and confidence that -- in that current or whatever. Is that part of it?
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah, it must be. It got us out, it’s got us back.
And yet it’s different in different -- in different days, different environments, different years, different groupings of our families, different groupings of the crews that are around us. It’s always different.
KAREN BREWSTER: Because I know there are some years, when there's been that big break-off, that, you know, there are some crews who’ve decided not to go out whaling, right?
RICHARD GLENN: Hm-mm. That’s the whole fishnet of information, right? And -- and so, yeah, it pays to -- You have to listen to the people that you believe in. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. Yeah.
CRAIG GEORGE: I really admire the bravery. More and more every year.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and I do, too, and that’s why I think some of it is -- it’s your confidence in the knowledge. You’re confident in the knowledge you have.
RICHARD GLENN: I’ll tell you this, I don’t sleep. I rarely -- I never sleep soundly. I rarely sleep.
And I’m supposed to be up only half the time and my counter-leader’s supposed to be up the other half of the time. I’m usually the night guy.
And I don’t sleep soundly, and I don’t hardly sleep at all until I’m back behind a grounded ridge or on land.
CRAIG GEORGE: And then you sleep like you never slept before. RICHARD GLENN: Yep.
KAREN BREWSTER: And that -- is that only now or -- ?
RICHARD GLENN: No, no. It’s always -- KAREN BREWSTER: That’s always been that way RICHARD GLENN: It's always been that way. KAREN BREWSTER: Even when there was more grounded ice?
RICHARD GLENN: It’s always been that way, 'cause -- And maybe it would change with time even if ice environment wasn’t changing.
But I’ve been in charge of -- I was in charge of people older and younger than me and everything that we had around us. And I wasn’t -- I was not gonna let -- fall asleep on my watch, basically.
And this is why you get so happy when you go goose hunting, because you can walk around on smelly tundra. Even though a blizzard can hit you back there, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RICHARD GLENN: But, yeah. So -- And maybe, you know, in the old days when we had less assets at stake and we were all in our boat, and it was us and the boat and everything else.
And we can drift and survive and drift and survive as happened in grandparents’ and great grandparents’ days, that’s a different kind of confidence, which is I've got everything I need right here.
And yet, even that kind of confidence has been shown -- I think -- I don’t know if you -- I hope you get to interview him, but Clifford Okpeaha has got a great story like that.
Basically, he -- he -- he was in charge of his destiny, despite the fact that he was drifting, you know.
And it’s that kind -- that kind of bravery, too. It’s an -- it’s an add -- it's just an nth dimension of what we’re talking about here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I don’t know if you can comment on the future. Is whaling gonna be able to continue as the ice environment keeps changing?
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Spring whaling.
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. I think -- I think it will continue. It will change. It will continue. And it -- that’s all I can predict.
KAREN BREWSTER: But will you be able to still go out in camps and -- ?
RICHARD GLENN: See, you -- you -- you always want one more degree of prediction than everyone's willing to give.
Whaling's gonna continue and we'll whale in the spring. And then -- But will it be like it used to be? It’s never like it used to be. But it’s not like it’s going to be later either. But I’m not --
I also don’t know if it’s a unidirectional change, right? So far it seems to be. You know, earlier -- later freeze-up, earlier break-up stuff.
Yeah, so I don’t think I will have the gift of a time-horizon long enough to know if it’s more than a unidirectional change.
I’m a fan of multi-year ice, and I’ll miss it if I don’t see it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you still ever see it? RICHARD GLENN: Oh, yeah! KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, yeah?
RICHARD GLENN: We got some great stories about that. And, in fact, at the beginning of this season it looked like there was a tongue of it coming this way from the Beaufort side.
So the thing is, when it comes this way now, it’s on a one-way trip. Somebody took a mallet to the sheet of peanut brittle, and all that stuff is breaking and heading your way and it’s not really headed back to refreeze, so -- so it’s a mixed blessing when you see multiyear ice these days.
And yet there was a bunch of ice that went by us this last spring for days, that I thought was multi-year. It might’ve been second-year ice or third-year ice. It was thick.
It had way too much freeboard than it should’ve had for being first-year ice, and yet it wasn’t totally fresh water. It wasn’t saline-free.
And that’s the ice that ground my whale against the landfast.
KAREN BREWSTER: That was some that -- the hinge? RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Interesting.
RICHARD GLENN: We were whaling with -- next to -- we were the second crew from the south when James Nageak and Roy (Nageak) and Benny (Nageak) and those guys were still whaling together.
They were far -- farthest north crew, we were the next one. And I -- I think we were out seaward of that perch area.
It must’ve been a year when the lead edge was further offshore. I’m not sure.
But those guys were whaling and looking to the west like we all do. We were the next crew to the south, kind of in the -- in the lee or whatever of whatever would happen to the bad of them if something’s coming from behind them.
And while they were sitting watching whales, their bench lifted up. They were hit from behind by ice, because it was closing to the east and to the north, and we -- and they were watching this open, beautiful hallway of open water to the west and the south.
And our trails made a Y and all hell broke loose where they were at. And we ran over to them. Had to cross one mountain to get to them.
And, basically, help them recover from a crush or, you know, something. A grind.
And everything that was their flat spot was gone by the time they -- we were done moving things away.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow! And that came from behind them?
RICHARD GLENN: Mm-hm. So that -- that’s what I told you about earlier. If you go far enough north, you’ve got jeopardy in multiple directions. You just gotta be watching in every direction.
KAREN BREWSTER: I find that grinding you were talking about and how it does that, that’s interesting.
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. To me it’s -- so there’s -- so then you gotta be a grinding connoisseur.
There’s different kinds of grinding. There’s the great grinding that -- that there’s stuff going by and you know kind of that you’re on a -- to some degree, stable ground. And that’s wonderful.
And then you can -- you can see the -- kind of the -- just the almost a few feet wide of ice lubricant between the pack that’s going by and -- and you.
There’s the grinding that’s -- that's slightly convergent, that every crack and snap is a -- is a piece of stress being pushed in your direction. And that’s -- that’s grinding crushing coming in.
It’s gonna -- if you wait long enough, it’s going to disturb the ground you’re sitting on to some degree.
And it’s -- the best place to be is to be on that little piece of real estate that doesn’t change in the presence of ice grinding by.
But sometimes conditions demand that you jump off your -- your -- your mountain of flat, solid Rock-of-Gibraltar grinding-edge ice, cross a little expanse of more active ice, and then for another day or so you’re whaling out there.
And your job is to get out there, get it and get back before anything bad happens.
Yeah, there’s -- there's all kinds of grinding. You know, and the cool thing about ice is it’s like the mountains.
It’s like, you don’t -- you don't know that these terrains that are in the south part of Alaska came from the other side of the Pacific.
All you know is that they made tracks when they hit this way. But they’ve been grinding this way forever.
And I have a feeling that there’s a lot of -- in a pressure ridge there’s ninety percent sideways and ten percent convergent.
KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. Yeah, and I don’t think about that there’s different kind of grinding. To me, grinding is just moving along
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. There’s convergent grinding. There’s parallel grinding. There’s almost diverging grinding. CRAIG GEORGE: It changes, too. RICHARD GLENN: Yeah.
CRAIG GEORGE: It can be sliding along nice. It’s like -- this is all good. And all of a sudden it starts ---
KAREN BREWSTER: It starts changing? RICHARD GLENN: Hinging. KAREN BREWSTER: Hinging. CRAIG GEORGE: Converging and building.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it’s almost like it catches -- A piece sticking out, and it’s catching and then it shifts it.
RICHARD GLENN: There’s that. There’s the sticking-out irregular edge. And then there’s the sudden rotation, for reasons unknown, of this huge thing that was going by just fine like this.
And all of a sudden it’s so big there’s geometry going on way out there. Something hits something.
Anyway, this big thing that looks like land going by, instead of going by, starts spinning in this way. That happened to us more than once, you know.
CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it’s amazing.
RICHARD GLENN: And if you -- I guess if you pull your eyes up, it’s just something that’s rotating as it’s moving by.
But it sure as heck changes the world that you’re living on if you’re in a tent at the ice edge.
KAREN BREWSTER: And if -- yeah, I would think something big like that starting to rotate towards you, do you evacuate? RICHARD GLENN: Oh yeah!
KAREN BREWSTER: Is that your sign to move?
RICHARD GLENN: You should have moved a little bit before then, yeah.
But there’s a lot to learn by watching the active ice edge. And I try to do that when it’s safe on my own and with elders when they were there.
I did it with Warren Matumeak. And I did it with my Uncle George (Ahmaogak).
And I bring our youngsters out to do the same thing, because there’s a lot to learn watching moving ice.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I had a question back on the currents, ‘cause you talked about multiple bands of currents.
And that’s bands out from the shore? Or bands depth-wise or both?
RICHARD GLENN: I don’t -- yeah, so -- We know that we can see sometimes there’s a change in the velocity of a current as you go at depth.
But what I’m talking about -- what I was describing to you earlier, is you can see in early summer conditions, there’s a change in the color of the water. There’s -- or there’s bands of ice accumulated here and then a fetch of open water.
So there’s something happening in linear fashion along those bands or those water-color changes.
And then there’s the ultimate color boundary band, which is the Beaufort/Chukchi thing, whatever goes on there.
There’s a lot of -- you’ve been around for some of the drama that goes on there. People drifting this way, and they think they’re gonna keep drifting east, and all of a sudden they’re drifting straight out, you know.
And other people that have somehow drifted and they drift north/northeast, and then they go straight out for a while, and then they’re enveloped again and they start drifting east again, and they come ashore.
I mean, there’s every variation of what can happen at the Beaufort/Chukchi boundary. There’s -- there's a lot to learn there.
KAREN BREWSTER: And these other currents you’re talking about are closer to shore?
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. So I don’t know. So, what I’m talking about is the -- where the Beaufort meets the Chukchi. That can happen right at the Point Barrow.
So I’m not talking about close -- but I’m talking about further away from the Point as you come on the Chukchi side, there seem to be a bands of currents and current boundaries where ice and animals accumulate in bands.
KAREN BREWSTER: And during spring whaling when -- at the lead edge, are those current there?
RICHARD GLENN: They could be. They could be. I don’t know. KAREN BREWSTER: They don’t play the same role? RICHARD GLENN: Not in the world that I see, no.
KAREN BREWSTER: And to the east on the Beaufort side, are there those same -- are there bands of currents in the same way?
RICHARD GLENN: That’s what the eastern captains tell us. They’re moving in different directions, of course. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. But they have bands of currents?
RICHARD GLENN: Yeah, we had a -- We had a good workshop that tried to put oceanographers together with whaling captains and discuss what current edge means, what current boundary means. And it was productive, I think.
KAREN BREWSTER: And what did you guys conclude?
RICHARD GLENN: There’s no -- there's no overarching great truth that -- that -- that you can -- that I think, except that at different scales of observation, different things -- you -- you either see or understand different things.
And I think the -- the overarching conclusion from those -- those interactions was that both sides valued each other’s experience.
I mean, they were experts talking about the same thing, which is cool. Cultural difference disappeared. They were friends. You know, colleagues.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But you said there’s a current boundary? RICHARD GLENN: Mm-hm.
KAREN BREWSTER: What you mean by that?
RICHARD GLENN: Well, if you go -- put your back to the beach and head outward, you’re gonna -- you're gonna find a place where the water velocity on one side of a linear feature is different than the other side.
Or the water color is different. Or the ice cover’s different, or the presence of animals are different.
And it happens in what appears to us as -- as bands, kind of parallel to the coastline.
If you go seven miles out, you’re going to go to where you’re gonna see an ice edge. You’re gonna see moving ice, open loose ice. Go through it.
On the other side, there’s another band about five miles wide. Then there’s a current boundary. You’re gonna see the water color change.
Then you’re gonna see another -- that’s where the walrus are, right? This is the way we give each other directions to where animals are.
And then if you sit on one side of a current boundary and it’s moving faster, for example, than the side that you just came from, you’re heading outward and now you’re on this side.
It’s the appearance that one side is moving in one direction, the other one’s moving the other, when maybe they’re both moving the same direction at different speeds.
Because what we say is the current is going a different direction on that side than this, and that can happen, too. But, you know, it would be neat to be -- to be all rigged for observing this with satellites and everything else to -- to -- to know for certain.
KAREN BREWSTER: It’s interesting to think about the currents that close together going in different directions.
RICHARD GLENN: Mm-hm. And yet you’ve had -- you know, it can happen. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: That’s right. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and I don't --
CRAIG GEORGE: It’s on this video of the ice -- RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: -- at Savik’s whale. RICHARD GLENN: Oh, yeah.
CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it shows it beautifully. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, cool. Well --
RICHARD GLENN: That one from springtime? Is that the last spring? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: It says May 12, 2012. RICHARD GLENN: Okay. Yeah.
CRAIG GEORGE: That’s the animation of pulling the whale up. RICHARD GLENN: Oh, okay. CRAIG GEORGE: You can see big chunks of ice going south, and -- RICHARD GLENN: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: -- chunks of ice going north. It's crazy.
KAREN BREWSTER: Cool. Well, do you have more questions, Craig?
RICHARD GLENN: We’re talked out, man. KAREN BREWSTER: I think Richard’s talked out.
CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. I got more, but I’m -- I'm talked out, too.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Quyanaqpak, Richard. RICHARD GLENN: Yeah!